Getting started: The Fool

27 March 2017

While there are generally accepted 'standard' meanings to all 78 cards in a traditional tarot deck, their inferences are also subject to interpretation by the reader (and/or seeker, if they are not one and the same). A card's meanings will also be affected by its position in a spread and the question being asked. 

"Tarot card analysis is not unlike Jungian dream analysis, where the signs and symbols are treated in a two-level process. First an objective, analytical approach is taken, whereby the cards relate directly to a Seeker's external situations and memory. The second level is subjective, and the Seeker is pressed to answer for him- or herself why certain archetypal symbols appear before [them] and what spiritual or intuitive message is being conveyed from the unconscious to the conscious to aid the Seeker in achieving a higher plane." - p 60 Holistic Tarot by Benebell Wen.  

The Fool from Sun and Moon tarot by Vanessa Decort
As a beginner, whichever you way you look at it, the starting point is to learn the fundamental meanings of each of the cards and one of the most highly recommended ways to do this is to pull one - randomly - from the deck each day and then study it in detail to get an understanding of the meanings and nuances. To think about how it could be applicable to your day or current situation.

It is fitting then, that the first card to be pulled should be The Fool. I randomly selected this card from a new but very well-shuffled Sun and Moon deck. I haven't looked at all of the cards yet and am keen to get to know them, however, the deck doesn't use traditional imagery so I've also pulled out the same cards in the two decks I am most familiar with - The Wild Unknown and the Radiant Rider-Waite. Although this isn't the way that most people tell you to do it, I'm a visual person and seeing them together helps me to connect to the meanings. 

Looking at all three interpretations, the essential symbolism is the same: The youthful fool is about to step off (the cliff/ branch) into the unknown.  This is a card of new beginnings, spontaneity and a disregard for the rules. Who willingly steps off a cliff? An optimist or someone who knows something we don't, that's who! It could really go either way for him - the fool might land with a splat or it could be the start of a wonderful adventure - whichever way it turns out, it is likely to have a profound effect on his life.

Decks L to R: Sun and Moon tarot, The Wild Unknown and the Radiant Rider Waite (RRW). 
In the Wild Unknown, where the fool is portrayed as a cute little chick about to take the first leap, there is little additional symbolism apart from spring-like blossom (something new). However, the colours and the direction of the background linework show that this is an optimistic card (yellow, like the sunrise) and that the energy is free-flowing and untamed (horizontal lines). Despite the uncertainty, he's going to take the leap with a twinkle in his eye. 

The traditional imagery of the RRW is more symbolic - our footloose and fancy-free fool pays little attention to the edge of the cliff - he's looking (dreamily) up into the sky. He holds a white rose which symbolises pure passion, and it is elevated towards the sun. He's on his way to enlightenment. His bag is full of his experiences, and it's light and easy to carry - nothing is weighing him down. His companion - a happy little white dog - is symbolic of the animal nature, or instinct, inside us all. To me it also looks like he's warning the fool that there might be danger ahead, I know that my dog would! The fool's stick is a wand, a symbol of power, although he holds it lightly and in a care-free way, and not with obvious intent or direction. Does he know the potential power in his hands? Does he even care? 

And so onto the fool in the Sun and Moon tarot. He's a cool-looking dude with his sneakers and baggy pants. Instead of a dog, he's travelling with a tiger - a symbol of fear. He also has a wand and staff - this symbolises health, intuition, well-being and healing. The crocodile beneath the cliff represents creative vision and strength - when he takes the leap he might need those. For me, the most interesting symbol on this card is the butterfly - it represents change and spiritual transformation - and it has flown in a spiral around the fool and his tiger before ascending into the sky towards the sun. The fool's journey will result in a progression of his spirituality and he is encouraged to take the leap. 

For me, the fool has come at a perfect time. If you saw my earlier post about feeling vulnerable for starting a tarot-centric blog as someone brand new to the cards, you'll know that it feels a lot like stepping into the unknown. When the fool comes up in a reading it's time to take the leap - it makes me feel reassured that I did. 

As we journey into the new season, and with April Fool's Day later this week, it's the perfect time to ask yourself: What new beginnings are you experiencing? Are you up for taking risks and following your intuition into something new? Are you willing to 'play the fool'?

Edited to add: the Fool is also associated with the new moon, which is tomorrow. 

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